The mother of an Israeli teen suspected of making hundreds of false bomb threats against American Jewish institutions in recent months told an Israeli TV station that her son has been diagnosed with autism and was not in control of his actions due to a tumor in his brain.
The woman said she was “shocked” to discover that her son was suspected of making the threats, which had previously been assumed to have been made by anti-Semitic groups and said she wished she would have known and prevented the calls.
Shown on Israel’s Channel 2 in an interview aired Saturday evening with her face obscured by shadow, the woman said the teen should not be held responsible for his actions.
“My son is not a criminal, he doesn’t know what he’s doing,” she said, repeating claims by the suspect’s lawyer that a non-malignant brain tumor discovered several years ago had an adverse affect on the teen’s behavior.
On Thursday, police asked a court to extend the teen’s remand by a week pending an ongoing investigation. He is facing charges of extortion, making threats and publishing false information. A gag order prevents the publication of the teen’s name in Israel and he is identified by his initial “M” in media reports.
Israeli police say the young man is responsible for a range of threats against Jewish community centers and other Jewish sites across the United States in recent months, as well as hundreds of threatening phone calls made over the past two to three years against schools and other public institutions in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
TV footage shows that the teen used a small antenna outside his bedroom window to connect to the internet without being easily traced, and also used voice-masking technology when making the threatening phone calls.
The suspect’s father was detained by police along with his son amid suspicions that he turned a blind eye to the teen’s actions, but was released by an Israeli court to house arrest last Thursday.
In the television interview, the teen’s mother said that from a young age it has been clear that the boy could not function in the regular education system despite his high intelligence.
She said he was born with an abnormally large head and was slow in developing speaking skills, but that he showed great aptitude in solving puzzles.
The teen was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum.
She said that as a boy the teen had trouble concentrating on tasks, writing or listening to music. “He couldn’t sit down, he’d walk around, shaking,” she said.
The American-Jewish family moved to Israel when the boy was six years old, and he could not function in the Israeli school system.
The parents decided to home-school the child and his mother, a scientist, decided to give up on her work in biochemistry to educate the child at home.
The woman showed examples of her son’s fixations — intricate maps drawn by hand, complex games he created for himself with long lists of numbers, and an obsessive collecting and cataloging of tickets for every bus or train ride he took.
The teen hardly ever left his house and spent most of his time alone. The mother said he has no friends.
According to a report last week by the Hebrew-language Yedioth Ahronoth daily, the teenager made more than 1,000 threatening phone calls over the past two years, including at least two threats to Delta Airlines, resulting in the grounding of planes after they have already taken off.
Israeli police only managed to capture the teen after US President Donald Trump sent a team of 12 FBI agents to Israel in recent weeks, a report in the Haaretz daily said.
Federal agents are still involved in questioning the teen in Israel, Channel 2 reported, and the family is concerned that the US may seek to extradite the suspect.